A century from Dinesh Karthik guided Tamil Nadu to their fifth Vijay Hazare Trophy title as they defeated Bengal by 37 runs in the final at the Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi on Monday.
Karthik came into the final in superb form, having previously notched up one hundred and four half-centuries during the previous rounds of the competition and he looked in fine touch once again.
It wasn’t all rosy for Tamil Nadu though as after electing to bat first, they found themselves in huge trouble at 49-4 at one stage. Karthik, along with Baba Indrajith, rebuilt the innings as the duo put on an 85-run partnership.
In the end, Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 217 with Karthik scoring 112.
Mohammed Shami, who has been out of international cricket for a while due to injury, was the pick of the Bengal bowlers as he took four wickets. Ashok Dinda also impressed with bowling figures of 3/36.
In reply, Bengal lost their first two wickets with just four runs on the board. They never really recovered from that and were eventually bowled out for just 180, despite Sudip Chatterjee notching up a half-century.
Aswin Crist, M Mohammed, and Rahil Shah picked up two wickets each for the champions.
Tamil Nadu 217 all out, 47.2 overs [Karthik 112, Shami 4/26, Dinda 3/36] beat Bengal 180, 45.5 overs [Chatterjee 58, Crist 2/23, Mohammed 2/30, Shah 2/38] by 37 runs.
Congratulations TNCA on a terrific 2016/17 season ! pic.twitter.com/O88nslHH4k— TNCA (@TNCACricket) March 20, 2017
India captain Virat Kohli was full of praise for Cheteshwar Pujara after the end of the third Test against Australia in Ranchi, which ended in a draw.
Pujara was named the Player of the Match for his brilliant performance with the bat as he scored the third double century of his Test career. In facing 525 deliveries during his innings, he created a record for the most balls faced by an Indian batsman in a Test innings.
Kohli feels that people don’t understand the importance of Pujara and what he brings to the Indian Test team. He said that the Saurashtra batsman always puts his hand up when a pressure situation arises.
“Sometimes, I feel really bad for him [Pujara] that, you know, people don’t understand his importance so much in this team and what a valuable player he is for us,” said Kohli.
“He’s the most composed player we have in the team, he’s willing to grind for his runs, he doesn’t mind batting under pressure, he likes to take a challenge of batting long.
“So, someone like that is priceless to have in the team and when the pressure situation comes, he always wants to put his hand up and play long for the team and hold up one end which is a great quality in him.”
In fact, Pujara – during his knock in the third Test against Australia – overtook Kohli as the highest run-scorer for India in their ongoing home season.
In 12 Tests, the 29-year-old batsman has notched up 1259 runs at an average of 66.26 with four centuries to his name.
“This season, he [Pujara] has been understanding. I don’t know the number of runs he has scored, but he has contributed throughout and he’s not been spoken about or been the focus too much, but I think he deserves much more than that,” added Kohli.
“People need to stand up and take notice of what he’s done this season. He’s been outstanding with the bat and I hope he can continue till the last Test match as well.”
Pujara showcasing the art of batting time...a diminishing art in this era. #INDvAUS— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) March 19, 2017
On Sunday morning, even before Cheteshwar Pujara stepped out to bat, some exceptional presence of mind and genius camera work captured a rare moment: the Saurashtra batsman, waiting for the match officials to take the field, stood right behind the boundary line with his eyes shut.
This was a crucial day, India were coming out to bat at 360/6, 91 runs behind Australia’s first innings total of 451. On so many occasions, we’ve seen the Indian lower-middle order crumble in these situations.
It was crucial that Pujara who was returning to bat at 130* hung in there for long enough, and with his eyes shut, you knew he was telling himself precisely that.
Before this match began, in this home season, the Indian opening partnership averaged 29.70 while Pujara averaged 58.72, which meant that he wasn’t only contributing heavily with runs, but he was also absorbing immense pressure, seeing off the new ball, and allowing the incoming batsmen to take their time to settle.
Sunday was crucial, with so much chatter around this series and so much that was at stake for either side, it was going to be a grueling day of Test cricket.
As it turned out, in the first session, Australia dried up the runs, with Steve O’Keefe and Josh Hazelwood practically hitting the same spot on the pitch every ball. The plan seemed obvious, they wanted to bore the Indian batsmen out.
Little did they know, that in a battle of attrition, you don’t win against someone who has played so much of his cricket on the most lifeless tracks in the world in Saurashtra.
If O’Keefe bowled around his leg-stump, Pujara was happy to intercept it with his pads absorbing pressure, over after over, like a porous sponge absorbing water. This reflected in his numbers too, Pujara played 215 deliveries from O’Keefe, the most number of balls faced by any batsman off a bowler in a Test innings since 2000.
At one point during Pujara’s marathon innings, former Australian opener and now commentator Matthew Hayden admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to stay that quiet for so long without hitting the odd boundary. But this was Pujara, he knew how pivotal his stay in the middle was.
All wasn’t as rosy for Pujara though as right before lunch on day four, he missed a delivery that was angling in from Nathan Lyon and was given out LBW. But, with a redefined sense of the use of DRS, Wriddhiman Saha asked Pujara to review that decision and viola, the ball-tracker showed that the ball would miss the leg-stump.
The afternoon session post that was all Pujara. On a murky day, watching the opposition inch closer to their massive total, Australia seemed flustered. They were waiting for things to happen. Pujara and Saha, juxtaposed to that, were making things happen.
As he directed one past the short-leg fielder and ran his 200th run, for a brief moment, the zen-like monk in him took a backseat. Having batted for 521 deliveries then, and over 11 hours, the kid in him pumped his fist, leaped in the air and exulted in joy.
Stand and applaud! It's a double for @cheteshwar1 200 in 521 balls.... what a performance.— Michael Clarke (@MClarke23) March 19, 2017
He had done it, he had resurrected a scuppered boat by absorbing everything that the ocean of hardship had to throw at him.
Four balls later, he flicked one to Glenn Maxwell at short mid-wicket and ended the longest occupation of the batting crease by an Indian batsman at 202 runs off 525 balls. Immediately after that, he thumped his bat on to his pads in disappointment. He wanted to bat longer, gee, this hunger for excellence!
In an age where big-bicep batsmen pummel balls to unimaginable distances and hog all the attention in the process, it is tough to be a vintage Test batsman. But, when it is time for operation right-the-ship, guess where is everyone looking? In the Indian dressing room, it is at the impregnable Cheteshwar Pujara.